Community Players leave it all on the stage in ‘August: Osage County’

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The Weston family is thrown into turmoil when their patriarch goes missing. (Photo by Terry Mathews)
All families have issues and secrets, none more than the Westons of Northeastern Oklahoma.

In their production of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “August: Osage County,” Sulphur Springs’ Community Players have tackled some tough subject matter: alcoholism, drug addition, toxic relationships, suicide and pushing boundaries.

During an emotionally exhausting 2-hour matinee Sunday, the 13-member cast, aptly directed by Triston Pullen, 20, left it all on the stage. Anger, hurt, manipulation, shocking revelations: they were all there – in spades.

The action revolves around the Weston family: Beverly, the alcoholic patriarch; Violet, the pill-addicted mother from hell; Ivy, the sister left behind to tend to her parents; Barbara, the sister who fled to Colorado with her professor husband and teenage daughter; and Karen, the bubble-head real estate agent who chooses to be oblivious to everything but her current squeeze, Steve.

Everyone comes home when Beverly goes missing. Violet’s mouthy sister, Mattie Fae Aikin and her long-suffering husband, Charlie, arrive with food. Their son Little Charlie shows up, too. Even Barbara’s philandering husband joins her and their daughter for the trip home.

Beverly was the glue that held the family together, loosely as it was. Once he’s gone, things unravel. Old wounds, angers and resentments bubble to the surface.

Barbara’s becoming a mirror image of her mother: a raging shrew who pushes everyone away with her caustic tongue.

Ivy, desperate to find a life away from the turmoil, has turned to forbidden love for comfort.

Karen, who spent her childhood kissing her pillow and entertaining fairy tale fantasies, is willing to marry a snake of a man just to have her dream honeymoon to Belize.

Violet continues to pop pills and lash out at anyone who comes near. No one is spared from her venom and vitriol. The dinner table turns into a battleground, literally, as the family begins to disintegrate.

The brutality and the sheer number of words in this play could overwhelm less capable actors.

However, the pros at Main Street Theatre have been at this for more than 30 years and 2014 SSHS grad Pullen, trained by Dawn Doyle-Reynolds, SSHS legendary drama teacher, has honed his skills at Santa Fe University.

Pullen’s set design was well laid out, as were his direction and pacing. He has an internship on Broadway this fall. They might not let him come home – such talent this kid has.

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The cast of “August: Osage County” sat for a Q&A session after Sunday’s matinee. (Photo by Terry Mathews)
Of particular note here are the women: Mary Rose Duncan (Violet); Cindy Lancaster (Mattie Fae); Julie Penkava (Ivy); Brook Howard (Karen) and Leah Conner (Barbara). These ladies really stepped into their characters’ skins, as difficult as that might be. I believed them, the way they related to one another and to the others who had the misfortune of being in their orbits.

Having read the play and seen the movie with Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale and Julia Roberts, I was prepared for rough language and the cruelty of the relationships. But as one audience member said Sunday, being so close to the action made their stories pack a mighty powerful punch.

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Warning: Strong adult content and language. The show runs this week on Thursday and Saturday evenings at 7 and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 903-885-0107 for reservations, which are recommended.

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